Best Hole-in-the-Wall BBQ
Blue Oak BBQ/

Best Hole-in-the-Wall BBQ Joints Across America

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Best Hole-in-the-Wall BBQ
Blue Oak BBQ/

meat america's best

Writing about barbecue is like writing about politics — no matter your position, a lot of people are going to hate you. The word "best" is subjective, but to barbecue aficionados, it is an indisputable fact that their favorite haunts are the unrivaled kings of all things smoked, marinated, and rubbed. Regional tastes also play a role. The term "hole-in-the-wall" is, of course, also open to interpretation. This article attempts to capture the overlap between the barbecue joints that are undeniable contenders for best in their city or state with rave reviews from locals, but that serve their masterpieces in an atmosphere that is neither pretentious nor haughty — "hole-in-the-wall" is a compliment, not an insult.

Related: 25 Barbecue Recipes and Tricks From Celebrity Chefs

Kreuz Market
Kreuz Market/

kreuz market | lockhart, texas

If what the city has long claimed is true, that Lockhart really is the barbecue capital of Texas, then you could argue for starting this list with Black's, Chisholm Trail, or any of the other staples that keep the hungry and curious flocking to Lockhart from nearby Austin and beyond. But we chose to start the list with Kreuz Market, where the work gets done in German meat-market-style brick pits. They're famous for their brisket, but it would be morally wrong to leave without trying the smoked sausage.
Smitty's Market
Diane N./

smitty's market | lockhart, texas

Like across-the-street Philly cheesesteak rivals Pat's and Geno's, great restaurants often come in clusters — and barbecue is no different. Family owned since 1924, Smitty's Market has almost as much history in the barbecue Mecca of Lockhart as Kreuz Market. The magic comes from their primitive but time-tested open-pit fire, and the brisket is famous throughout the Lone Star State for a reason.
Mike Anderson's
Kristian D./

mike anderson's bbq house | dallas

Mike Anderson's serves as many as 500 guests a day with lines that are known to snake outside the building. The masses are willing to wait for good reason. The vibe is friendly and the place is big — you can fit 100 people inside and another 80 outside on the deck. Virtually every single part of all 10 hickory-smoked meat offerings and 13 side orders is handled in house.
Blue Oak BBQ
Blue Oak BBQ/

blue oak bbq | new orleans

Heading to Louisiana you'll find Blue Oak BBQ, where the employee photo includes about a third of the workers holding draft beers, several wearing mud boots, and one long-haired dude is wearing a backward ballcap, cargo shorts and a white blazer with a pink necktie — hole, meet wall. Diners recommend splitting the all-the-meat-all-the-sides option, which costs a beefy $58. New Orleans is famous for jambalaya, gumbo, crawdads, and po-boys, so barbecue often falls under the radar. But Blue Oak brisket and ribs will remind you that the Big Easy does take its barbecue seriously.
Hickory Stick
Bill L./

hickory stick | shreveport, louisiana

Stop in for a meal or order by the pound, but either way, your hunger will be satiated with a trip to Hickory Stick. Although the ribs and pulled pork — and the secret house-made barbecue sauce that drenches them — are clearly the stars of the show, consider saving room for the homemade soups, which even give the meats a run for their money.
Charlie Vergos Rendezvous
Charlie Vergos Rendezvous/

charlie vergos rendezvous | memphis, tennessee

The family-owned Memphis institution that is Charlie Vergos Rendezvous started in a basement in 1948. Today, it's known for its low-key vibe and giant portions of pork ribs and massive combination platters. The pork ribs and shoulder rule the roost at Rendezvous and stand out as stellar even in the barbecue mecca of Memphis.
Delauder's Smoky Mountain BBQ/

delauder's | gatlinburg, tennessee

On the farthest reaches of Eastern Tennessee, opposite of Memphis in the West, is Gatlinburg, where you'll find a true hidden gem waiting to be discovered in one of the most well-worn barbecue states in America. There are an astonishing number of things that Delauder's is willing to barbecue, all of which are worthy of an award. Try the barbecued nachos, chicken chunks, and pork butts.
Copper Top
Copper Top BBQ/

copper top bbq | big pine, california

On the side of the highway in the small town of Big Pine is Copper Top. The little smoke stand only has outdoor seating at picnic tables, but that's the best way to enjoy barbecue anyway. Order the tri-tip steak, which is smoked in open pits to a pink medium. Fire-roasted chili with beans makes for a complementary side.
Cook's BBQ
Thomas R./

cook's barbecue | lexington, north carolina

Unlike the standard fare that made Lexington barbecue famous — although the city claims that it invented barbecue and therefore doesn't need anything to make it famous — Cook's Barbecue offers a wide variety of meats. Sure, they have an obsession with pork, but brisket, sausage, and beef ribs are all part of the experience, as well. Not only is brisket available, but it's stellar — by any standard, not just by the standards of North Carolina, where brisket is often an afterthought.
Iron Grate BBQ
Tim H./

iron grate bbq | milwaukee

Pitmasters have graced Milwaukee for decades, but it's a newcomer that's turning heads. Iron Grate BBQ leaves the pork belly attached to its ribs, creating a thick cap of sticky, smoky fat that melts into the meat. The pitmasters here dub it the "Milwaukee-style rib" and it pairs well with their smoked tomato mac and cheese or a half-pound of barbecue peel-and-eat shrimp.
Pat's BBQ
Pat's BBQ and Catering/

pat's bbq | murphysboro, illinois

A local favorite in a town that's known for knowing barbecue, Pat's BBQ is famous for its family-friendly atmosphere as much as it is for its massive, heaping portions. The vinegar-based barbecue sauce adds a little bit of tang to every bite, and the pulled-pork sandwich alone is enough for Pat's to make the list. As is the brisket. And the baked beans. And have we mentioned the barbecue sauce?
Roper's Ribs

roper's ribs | st. louis

Roper's Ribs claims to serve the "best BBQ in the Universe." While that statement is likely difficult to confirm or disconfirm, it is true that entertainer Steve Harvey once insisted the nondescript, family-owned restaurant serves the "best barbecue ribs in America." Hickory smoked for 12 hours, their ribs, shrimp, rib tips, brisket, and pulled pork have won an impressive list of accolades and awards. Pay them a visit the next time you're in St. Louis and you'll understand why.
Over I./

lc's bar-b-q | kansas city, missouri

You can see the smoke pouring out of L.C.'s Bar-B-Q before you smell the goodness, and you can smell it before you see the building. No matter what you order, it will almost certainly be too much, and the burnt ends are everything you'd expect from the very best of a barbecue city like K.C. If you can't decide on the animal of origin, go for the burnt ends half-and-half platter, which gives you both beef and pork.
Blue Door
Blue Door Smokehouse/

blue door | lexington, kentucky

The Blue Door is famous for its prices as much as its food. Everything comes with a single-digit price tag until you hit the platters — and when you hit the platters, you'll be happy that you did. You can add brisket, pulled pork, chicken, and sausage to just about everything, even the salads. The real draw, however, are the two-, three-, and four-meat combos, but the granddaddy of them all is the Blue Door Special, which promises "all the meats" for just $20.
Miss Myras
Anne N./

miss myra's | birmingham, alabama

Reviewers rave about the legendary white sauce at Miss Myra's, but the real magic is that the Birmingham favorite mixes A-list quality with hole-in-the-wall prices — every single one of the plates comes in at under $15 and all but one of the gargantuan family packs goes for less than $25. Then, of course, there are the pies. Homemade and hand-crafted, you'll dive into choice selections like chocolate chess, peanut butter, coconut, and key lime and chocolate cream.
Wagner's Ribs
Aubrey L./

wagner's ribs | porter, indiana

Wagner's Ribs claims to make the "most award-winning ribs in Indiana" and "the best ribs you've ever had in your life." Bold claims, indeed, but claims that Wagner's works hard to back them up. Their ribs are Texas-style dry rubbed, and their steak options include black Angus filet mignon and ribeye. If you're thirsty, don't worry — there are more than 75 beers on the menu.
One Eyed Jacks
Phil F./

one-eyed jacks smokehouse grill | lockport, new york

St. Louis-cut pork ribs and Texas-style beef brisket are just a few of the items that keep customers coming back to One-Eyed Jacks. A family-owned West New York staple, the barbecue dive claims to be "one of only a few true BBQ joints in all of WNY." Part of the secret is that sauce is strictly forbidden — everything is either dry rubbed or just straight smoked.
Rickette's World Famous Chicken, Fish & Barbecue

rickettes world famous chicken, fish and barbecue | chicago

Despite the bold claim in the name, Rickettes is actually one of Chicago's great hidden gems. Those in the know, however, are so keen on learning the secret of the magic that legend has it that the owner hides the smoker so no one can see what kind he uses. The traditional barbecued meats can stack up against any in the Windy City, but if you can only order one thing, it absolutely must be the catfish.
Fat Matt's
James S./

fat matt's barbecue | atlanta

Although it looks like a dilapidated dive on the outside, Fat Matt's is home to barbecue and nightly live blues acts that could rival any in Atlanta. Both its ribs and sweet potato pie have won well-earned awards, but the chicken earns rave reviews from Fat Matt's loyalists, as well.

BBQ Exchange
BBQ Exchange/

the barbecue exchange | gordonsville, virginia

The very best in authentic Virginia barbecue, the Barbecue Exchange roasts its half chickens over live coals, just like the street-side vendors of old. The meats are cured with secret dry rubs then brought to life in a custom wood-burning cooker. The tables are made from cedar, and the spareribs and pork shoulders are hickory smoked.
Jo Bawbs
Jo-Bawb's BBQ/

jo-bawb's championship bbq | oklahoma city

What started as a barbecue competition team evolved into a restaurant in Wyoming and one of the most highly prized mobile barbecue trailers in all of Oklahoma City. Jo-Bawb's Championship BBQ's list of awards, accolades, and championship prizes are too many to list, but their masterpiece can be summed up in a single word: brisket.
Katrina A./

peeble's bar-b-q | auburndale, florida

Peeble's was born in 1947, and it remains an Auburndale institution. The chopped chicken is a fan favorite, as is the rib sandwich. Unless you're buying sauce by the gallon, everything on the menu — every single item — costs less than $12.
E & L Barbeque
Finis D./

e&l barbeque | jackson, mississippi

For three decades, E&L Barbeque has been dishing up some of the juiciest, softest, fall-off-the-bone tips, ribs, and hot sausages. If you're looking for pomp or fanfare, you're in the wrong place, but if you came to the Magnolia State for flavor, you'd be hard-pressed to do much better than E&L.
Uncle Beth's
Rich M./

uncle beth's bbq | north lewisburg, ohio

The St. Louis-style ribs at Uncle Beth's are served wet; these chunks of meat are mopped with the restaurant's sweet barbecue sauce, though you can get a spicy sauce on request. Pulled pork, served either on a bun or on top of a baked potato with cheese, are the stars here. Brisket is available on Saturdays and goes well with the joint's spiced apples and jalapeño cornbread pudding on the side.
Gene's BBQ
Violet M./

gene's barbecue | brinkley, arkansas

You wouldn't know it by looking at the small, weathered, sheet metal building it calls home, but Gene's boasts some of the finest barbecue that Arkansans have within their state lines. The barbecue is great, but the classic Southern hospitality is better.
Sugar Boogers
Sugar Booger's/

sugar boogers | huntsville, arkansas

Comfort food meets barbecue at Sugar Boogers in Huntsville. Hot food and a warm atmosphere keep the locals coming back, but the out-of-this-world brisket and pork combo helps, too. If you're riding through the hills of Highway 21 and Arkansas 412, stop in for a beer and a bite, and join the faithful converts who call it their home away from home.
Roaming Buffalo
Cory N./

roaming buffalo bar-b-que | denver

Break out of the barbecue mold with a trip to Roaming Buffalo — the name reflects the unique menu. Try the Colorado bison back ribs, the bison green-chile sausage, the pulled Colorado lamb shoulder, or the Colorado lamb shank. Western barbecue at its very finest, every day of the week brings a different special — smoked barbecue tamales on Wednesdays, burnt ends on Thursday, and the list goes on and on.
Lippy's BBQ/

lippy's bbq | malcolm, nebraska

The food at Lippy's is served in plastic diner baskets and there are no white cloth napkins, but if you care about flavor more than fanfare, you've come to the right place. Their meats are smoked daily in a wood-burning, slow-smoke process. They make limited batches every day and when it runs out, that's it—so get it while it's hot.
Long Riders
Geoffrey H./

long riders barbecue | stevensville, montana

Chicken, brisket, and pulled pork are available by the plate, by the sandwich, or by the pound at Long Riders. Specialty items like the Montana BBQ beef sandwich are clear favorites, but they also whip up an amazingly good pizza pie.
Hickory House BBQ
Hickory House/

hickory house restaurant | jane lew, west virginia

The Hickory House lives by the motto: "the wood makes it good." They cook their meats low and slow over hickory flames and refuse to cut corners or take shortcuts — even the pickles are homemade. A mainstay since 2005, Hickory House features awesome apps like onion tanglers and the pork cheddar fry while offering entrees like the pork barbecue jalapeno melt and a brisket-and-split-sausage dish called the Pit-Master.